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´╗┐Title: Disaster Revisited
Author: Granger, Darius John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Disaster Revisited" ***

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                           DISASTER REVISITED

                         By DARIUS JOHN GRANGER

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories March
1957. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Illustration: A time can come when jumping is all that's left.]



[Sidenote: _It annoyed Jason Wall that everybody talked about death but
nobody did anything about it. So he decided to eliminate the pesky
nuisance. But in the end he longed for a chance to say, "Fellas--I was
only kidding!"_]


"Tell me the truth, doctor," Jason Wall said. "We've known each other
too long for lies."

The doctor nodded slowly, lit a cigarette and offered Jason Wall one.
"Yes, we've known each other a long time--long enough so I know the
truth, or anything you want, can't be kept from you."

Jason Wall smiled. He was a small, sparse man, very hard of eye and
gaunt of face. He was about forty-five years old.

"Then here it is," the doctor said uneasily. "You're going to die,
Jason. Eighteen months, maybe two years at the outside. There is
absolutely no chance for a cure."

Jason Wall turned to the window and finished smoking his cigarette.
Outside, children were playing, the sun was shining, and a postman came
by humming a gay tune. Jason Wall turned back to face the room and his
own grim reality. "Shall I consult specialists? I can buy--"

The doctor shrugged. "You can, if you wish. I already have, on the
biopsy."

"Pain?" Jason Wall asked.

The doctor nodded, yes. "Progressively worse. We'll be giving you
narcotics the last six months or so."

Jason Wall pursed his thin lips. His gaunt face seemed, if anything,
gaunter. That was the only sign that he had just been given his death
sentence. He said: "Blast it, doctor, it isn't fair! It isn't fair, I
tell you. I'm a rich man. Maybe the richest man in the world. I can buy
anything--anything, you hear me?" His voice went low suddenly, so low
that the doctor could hardly hear it. "Anything but my health. Because
don't let them tell you a man can't buy happiness. That's for sale too,
doctor. Anything is--except a man's health. Blast it, it isn't fair.
I've everything to live for."

The doctor said: "At least you're fortunate in one way. There'll be no
widow, no orphaned children, no--"

"Family!" scoffed the doomed Jason Wall. "You think that's happiness?
You think it matters?" He laughed, and there was nothing hysterical
about the laughter. "You don't know what happiness is. None of you do.
Happiness and selfishness, they're the same thing. The most successful
men realize that, doctor. I realize I'm not exactly the world's best
loved man. It doesn't matter, I tell you. It doesn't matter at all." He
went to the window again, watched the children at play. "But that isn't
fair. That's the hardest thing to take."

"Yes? What is?"

"Those children. The rest of the world. Out there. Playing. They don't
know I'm going to die. If they knew, they wouldn't care. That hurts more
than anything. Doctor, I tell you the world ought to weep when Jason
Wall dies. It ought to wear black."

"Mr. Wall, I know you won't mind my saying you're the most egotistical
man I've ever met."

"Mind? I'm delighted. A man ought to be self-centered. Shall we say, ten
thousand dollars?"

"Ten thousand--"

"Your fee, for telling me the truth. For telling me I'm going to die.
For not keeping it back."

"My fee is fifty dollars, Mr. Wall."

"You'll take ten thousand. I give what I want, doctor, so I feel free to
take what I want. Ten thousand dollars. You'll have your check in the
morning. Thank you."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Wall," the doctor said.

Jason Wall left the office grumbling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eve came to him that night wearing the stone marten cape he'd given her
for Christmas. She was a tall, regal blonde, long-legged and gorgeous.
She was half a head taller than Jason Wall, was from Iowa, and had won
the Miss Universe contest two years before. Naturally, since she'd been
voted the world's most beautiful woman, Jason Wall had had to possess
her. He'd given her an outright gift of half a million dollars, and
while most girls would have taken that and gone their way, Eve was
different. Eve only knew it was a ripple on the surface of Jason Wall's
bought happiness. She'd hung around for more. For much more.

"Drink?" Jason Wall asked.

"The usual."

       *       *       *       *       *

They drank. The butler brought dinner, and they ate. Then there was a
bottle of brandy, and cigarettes, and love play. Finally Eve said: "You
seem restless tonight, Jason darling."

"Do I?"

"I ought to know. I know you better than anyone else does."

"You don't know me at all. No one does, I've seen to it."

"Is anything the matter?"

"Eve, you've never lied to me. That's one of the things about you I
always admired, aside from your more obvious charms. Tell me, what would
you do if I died?"

"Don't even talk like that!"

"Posh! Don't make believe you're sentimental. I want the truth. What
would you do if I died in a year or two?"

"I--I don't even want to think about it."

"Actress! Bah!" Jason Wall grabbed her wrist, twisting cruelly.

"Jason, you--you're hurting me!"

"Then tell me the truth. What would you do if I died?" His tone was
urgent.

"I'd be--sad."

"Blast it, of course you'd be sad. I've given you the sort of life a
girl dreams about. But what would you do?"

"I--Jason, really!"

"Would you hook onto another man? Another rich man? You'd have to settle
for second best, you know. I'm the richest man there is. But don't think
I haven't seen how some of my business associates have been eying you.
Don't think--"

"Jason, my arm."

"Then tell me what I want to know."

"All right. All right, I'll tell you. You've shown me what the good life
is, Jason. I wouldn't want to be without it for long. I--I'd hook onto
someone else, as you say."

Jason Wall smiled. "Thank you," he said sincerely. "Thank you so much
for being honest."

He made love like a college sophomore that night. Eve was quite
pleasantly startled.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later that week and for the next month or so, he thought of suicide. The
trouble was, he had never been able to stand pain. A weakness. The one
weakness he had. When he thought of the pain which would surely come,
when he thought of the last few months of his life, which would be
spent, pain-wracked, on his death bed, his thoughts leaned most strongly
toward suicide. Yes, suicide was the obvious way out, and Jason Wall had
neither religious nor moral scruples about it.

Jason Wall had religious scruples, or moral scruples, about nothing
under the sun. He was an utterly egocentric man.

But when his thoughts of suicide were strongest he would remember what
he'd seen from the doctor's window. Children at play, delighting in
their simple pleasures. A postman at work, contented with his lot,
humming gayly. Or, he would send for Eve, and take from her body what he
craved. And, when it was over, he felt a strange, hollow sense of loss.
No, he would tell himself with complete objectivity (he had always been
thoroughly objective) not exactly loss. A sense, rather, of lost
possession, of something which belonged to Jason Wall, as his life
belonged uniquely to him, and would be taken away at his death. He tried
to imagine Eve in someone else's arms, Eve dancing with a younger man,
drinking with him, making love. A rage of jealousy flooded him, not for
the particular man lucky enough to win Eve, but for the world. For
everything in it.

For the whole blasted world, Jason Wall told himself.

He'd made his own world, fashioned it with the sweat of his brow and the
cunning of his brain. But ultimately, it did not matter. He was going to
die, to die in great pain. It wasn't fair that the rest of the world
should go right on living, enjoying the life that Jason Wall had barely
begun to taste. They'd see an article in the newspaper, perhaps. Famous
Tycoon Dies. In a day, a week, they would forget. They would go on
living out their little lives, enjoying their little enjoyments. But the
sum total of them--three billion men, women, and children on Earth, was
it?--added up to considerable enjoyment. Jason Wall envied them with a
desperate, passionate envy.

When his thinking evolved to the next stage, he knew with petty triumph
that only Jason Wall would have taken that step. He had an incurable
disease. He was going to die. But the world would go right on,
generations after generations. It wasn't fair. They had no right to
enjoy what he, Jason Wall, would lose forever.

He toyed--seriously toyed for some weeks--with the idea of destroying
the world. It could be done: he never doubted it for a minute. To
develop the atomic bomb, the governments of the free world had pooled
their resources in a crash program costing two billion dollars, and had
succeeded in a very few years. Two billion dollars--that was the kind of
figure Jason Wall understood. For two billion dollars, couldn't he hire
all the world's top scientists to build a super-bomb which would utterly
destroy Earth?

He could, of course. In theory, such a crash program, with Jason Wall's
money and industrial know-how behind it, was a possibility. But for
another reason, for a very simple reason, it was quite obviously
impossible.

The scientists wouldn't do it.

Suicide? Never. He decided that firmly, two months after the prognosis.
World-destruction? Impossible. Then what?

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Eve who, trying to flaunt an intellectual prowess she really did
not have, told him about time travel. There was this article she had
read in the newspaper Sunday supplement, about the possibility of moving
backwards through time. There was absolutely no natural law which said
it could not be done, the article said. It was merely a question of
probability. For, while in theory time travel was possible, it was
practically impossible--unless, as the article suggested and Jason Wall
thought in triumph, you pushed it. If you pushed it, the improbability
became a possibility, then a probability, then a reality.

Crash program, he thought.

The world was made of particles. All reality, particles. Discreet
particles of matter, of time, of space-time. Building blocks of the
universe. Now, take these particles; and return them to the positions
they occupied a moment ago--and you travel into the immediate past.
Re-arrange them into the positions they occupied years ago, decades,
generations, aeons--and you have time travel.

Crash program. Billions of dollars, he thought. All the world's great
physicists. It could be done. He could do it.

But--so what?

Jason Wall smiled. It was the way his mind often functioned. Decide on
something, apparently without relation to your problem. Then use it.

He couldn't have the world destroyed, despite his money and the decided
possibility of instituting a crash program to do it. He wouldn't be able
to fool the scientists, and the scientists just wouldn't do it.

But a crash program for time travel, now that was something else. That
could be done. He would see that it _was_ done.

For what purpose?

To return to the dawn of the human race. To find dawn man, the first
man. Call him Adam. To find the first truly human being.

To kill him.

To snuff humanity out at its source, as a flame is snuffed before it can
start a fire.

To prevent the human race from enjoying what he would never enjoy. To
destroy humanity by killing the first man.

Of course, he told himself, that would obliterate, along with the rest
of mankind's history and comedy and tragedy, the first forty-five years
of his own life. But those years didn't matter. By and large, they were
the hard years. They were the years of toil and struggle, to give him
the position and wealth he now had. Position and wealth--which he never
would enjoy. Let them be obliterated then! With the rest of humanity,
not in any sudden catastrophe, but quickly and without pain, at the
instant First Man is killed....

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later, he got the crash program underway. Since the world's
scientists, like most of the world's intellectuals, were underpaid, it
was comparatively simple hiring them, especially since this was a time
of international calm. At first the physicists were dubious. Yes, the
theoreticians said, time travel was a possibility. No, the engineers
said, it couldn't be executed.

Execute it, he said. Here's money. Here are facilities. Here is
everything you will need. If what you need doesn't exist, make it, buy
it, steal it--but get it. Our time is limited. We have a year. One year
to make it possible for one man to travel back in time.

After three months, they were shaking their heads.

After six months--when the first terrible twinges of pain had
begun--they began to work feverishly.

Jason Wall went regularly to his physician at this time for the drugs
that could ease his terrible suffering. They spoke, the doctor with no
greater objectivity than Jason Wall himself, of his disease. It was
absolutely incurable. Even a crash program to find a cure wouldn't help
Jason Wall. The damage done to his body was irreversible. And, the
doctor mentioned in passing, it was hereditary. That is, the germ of the
disease, or a predilection for it, or both, were carried in the blood of
mankind like a scourge, had been so carried, as far as medical science
knew, from the dawn of history and before.

If the murder he had planned ever bothered Jason Wall, which is
doubtful, it certainly did not bother him now. What was killing
him--hereditary! Why, the First Man he sought might himself be
responsible. Killing him would almost be a pleasure....

After eight months something began to take shape. It was a little box.
"For hamsters," one of the scientists said.

"Fool! I want to go."

They made the box bigger.

Ten months from the day the crash program had been started, the job was
completed. Jason Wall had spent the last few days watching the world at
play. Happy children, contented people, folks who didn't have much, but
who did have happiness. They would go right on enjoying themselves,
after Jason Wall died. It wasn't fair, he told himself. And he would see
to it that they didn't--by destroying their first ancestor, and his, so
they would never be born, so the human race would never be....

"... all physical actions on the sub-microscopic level, on the level of
molecules and atoms and sub-atomic particles and quanta of energy--all
these actions," the chief physicist told Jason Wall, "are reversible. If
you can control the reversal, you can return matter, energy, and space
to its former state. Doing that, you travel through time. Therefore--"

"Never mind the details," Jason Wall snapped. "That's your department. I
only want to know this: will it work. Will it take a man back through
time."

"Yes, but--"

"Very well. I'll go."

"But we haven't figured out a way to return. If you go, you won't come
back. You'll have to spend the rest of your life back there."

The rest of his life. Jason Wall smiled. The rest of his life could be
measured in pain-wracked months, possibly only in weeks.

Fifteen minutes after his discussion with the chief physicist, he sat
down in the time chair. Anthropologists had been consulted for the final
stages of the project. There would be no mistakes. He would go where and
when he had to go....

"Ready, sir?"

"Ready," said Jason Wall. Ready to destroy the human race--

His vision flashed and blurred. Time moved backward for him.

       *       *       *       *       *

A forest trail. Animals used it, had carved it out of the wall of
jungle. And the first man?

Armed with a revolver, Jason Wall left the now useless time-chair and
hid himself beside the trail. He waited three days, living on berries
and a small marsupial creature he had caught with his bare hands. If
First Man was around, he didn't want to frighten him off with gun-fire.

At last, First Man came.

He was, Jason Wall observed with objective detachment, a noble-looking
creature. The first true man. Over six feet tall, perfectly
proportioned. He looked quite the healthiest man Jason Wall had ever
seen. If looks meant anything, he had never known a day of disease in
his life, and never would. Jason Wall's determination to kill grew.

He did not have to wait long. When First Man came by his hiding place he
stood up, pointed the revolver, and fired it point-blank.

He was, naturally, ready for the end. The death of First Man ought to
mean the death of all men, the sudden blotting out, in all ages, of all
mankind and all traces of mankind.

First Man fell, mortally wounded. Blood gushed from his nostrils; he
died.

And Jason Wall went on existing. He didn't understand. It made no sense.
The death of First Man should have brought all humanity in all future
ages to an instant, painless end.

A woman, he thought.

There must be a woman. Already with child, perhaps, and therefore, the
mother of all the human race....

Jason Wall followed the forest trail, his revolver ready.

If the woman turned out to be as beautiful as the man had been handsome,
Jason Wall would not relish his job. He'd always had a soft-spot, the
one soft-spot in his makeup, for beautiful women.

He found her in a little clearing before a cave.

She was quite the loveliest creature he had ever seen. She was stark
naked, and showed no fear when she saw him. She showed, instead, a
lively curiosity. She jabbered and smiled at him and came to him,
open-handed, interested, friendly.

I'll kill her, he told himself, when the pain is too bad, when I can't
stand it any longer. She can't get away. She expects nothing, nothing.
Meanwhile, he decided to spend the last months of his life with this
woman....

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no reason to expect that she had been monogamous. One man or
another would be all the same to her, if they could leave this area. If
she wouldn't find the corpse of her mate. Jason took her hand, and they
walked. They walked for a long time. Then they slept, then ate, then
walked again. The woman jabbered. Jason Wall talked. He was enjoying
himself immensely. There was no hurry. This was a new kind of life, a
new kind of experience. He loved every moment of it.

They found another cave, three day's journey from the first. They lived
there for some weeks. The pain came more frequently, but Jason Wall
withstood it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The weeks became months. His days were numbered now, he knew that. It
seemed just, somehow. After taking all that the first woman had to
offer, he would kill her--and destroy all humankind.

She never had understood his affliction, his great pain. Pain from a
wound she could understand. Once he had scraped his knee on a rock, and
she had been extremely sympathetic. But pain from disease seemed unknown
to her. Of course, Jason Wall knew, any disease was compounded of two
things: a disease agent, bacteria or virus, and a susceptibility.
Apparently First Man and First Woman had utterly no susceptibility. They
were disease-free.

Some time later in the course of human development--how much later he
did not yet know--susceptibility to disease had evolved.

The woman's belly grew round and Jason Wall knew she was going to have a
baby. His baby.

He sighed. His time was short. The baby would never be born, because he
would kill its mother first.

Then it struck him like a blow. A baby. His baby. And First Man and
First Woman--free of disease. He had introduced disease into the human
makeup, by planting his seed in this woman!

_Including his own...._

He could break the pattern by killing her. Then, as he had planned
originally, there would be no childbirth, and no mankind.

He lifted the pistol. The look on his face must have given him away.
Probably, she thought it was a club. He was pain-wracked and very much
weakened by his disease now. She took the pistol away from him easily,
and shrugged, and cried a little, and went away.

He ran after her.

"Wait!" he screamed. "Wait, you don't understand! You've got to die.
You've got to--"

He fell. His legs drummed feebly. She was gone. The pistol was gone.
Humanity would live--the life of torment and pain and disease that it
had always known.

And he would die, alone, wracked by the ailment he had introduced into
the human line.

He lay there.

It took him a long time to die.





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